Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault Review

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Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium IV 1.5 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 8x CD ROM drive, 3 GB HD space, 64 MB video card, Windows 2000 or XP

You have failed to define yourself, soldier!

"As Marine Private Tommy Conlin, you must survive the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor and then join the Allied crusade to defeat imperial Japan's bloody conquest of the Pacific."


Kevin Rice

Ever since games like Medal of Honor (and more specifically, the Allied Assault sequel) and the superlative Call of Duty were released, games with relatively accurate depictions of World War II have been in vogue. Infinity Ward, the developer of Call of Duty, is mostly comprised of folks that left the Medal of Honor team and unfortunately for EA Games, it shows. Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault (MOH: PA) has a lot going for it. The graphics engine is gorgeous with plenty of cool effects. The music is spot-on, changing moods appropriately to the context of the game. The setting is somewhat uncharted in the first-person shooter (FPS) World War II subgenre. The problem, and it's big, is inconsistency in the gameplay: MOH: PA doesn't know if it's an arcade game, a simulation, or something in between. There's fun to be had here, but considering the lineage of the series, this is a little bit of a letdown.

Same War, New Locale

Where the majority of WWII FPS games take place somewhere in the European Theater, MOH:PA sets itself apart by concentrating completely on the other side of the globe. The game starts with a strange flashback. You're landing on the beaches, about to participate in D-Day, and are quickly knocked out (there's nothing you can do to avoid it). From there, you're taken back to your days as a Marine recruit, shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. As luck would have it, your first assignment after boot camp is Pearl Harbor.

You arrive moments before the attack and sure enough, you're thrust into the thick of it all. After a tense run down a pier toward your assigned boat, you participate in one of the best moments in the game. Manning a gun on a boat, you're shooting down as many Japanese Zeroes as you can, all en route to a sinking ship where you have to rescue what survivors you can while attempting to keep the vessel from capsizing. It's a glorious bit of gameplay, involving varied play styles, interesting timed events, and plenty of eye candy. Then it's off to the jungles for far, far too long.

Jungle sequences constitute a majority of the game. At first, it's very appealing. The graphics engine renders everything in startling detail, and the locales seem authentic. But after an hour or two of this, the patterns begin to rear their ugly heads. Go along and/or near the path, come across Japanese soldiers, kill them, find the village/array of huts, kill everything, set a charge, get (de)briefed, and continue. To be fair, these jungle sequences are broken up by the occasional vehicle ride (on rails), and look spectacular.

Unfortunately, it's these same sequences that expose the game's shortcomings. While it's okay for enemies to spawn almost at random in some games like Painkiller or Serious Sam, it's completely out of place here. You can hear the "All clear!" yelp of your team, walk ten feet forward, and suddenly the place is crawling with enemies. There are a lot of cheap shots here, and for some reason your weapons are often underpowered. Unless the Japanese were on a particularly strong, iron-rich diet, there's no way that it should take so much power to do them in. There are hit-box glitches as well. One very common thing to do in many FPS games is to scout ahead slowly, picking off enemies to make it easier on yourself. There are too many areas where, even with the enemy in plain sight (especially using a sniper rifle), no amount of firepower will down them; some unseen script hasn't been triggered yet, and everything is a placeholder until that happens.

Mysteries Of The Jungle

This is where MOH: PA has an identity crisis. It takes an excruciatingly long time to reload most weapons, you have to bandage yourself when your hurt, and there are very few "health packs" laying around. You have to rely on your Corpsman to do this for you (up to four times per level). This seems pretty realistic. Then why can't I hit people until a trigger is tripped? How can an enemy take five machine gun bullets to the head from under 10 feet away and live? How do these enemies magically appear? Why can't I bring down a scope when reloading (and how am I reloading with the scope up)? Why would enemies in a hut fifty feet away not respond to gunfire that just killed all their comrades? How is it that few of my virtual teammates die, but they can take enough bullets to kill King Kong? And finally, with all the polish put on the production values, how can these things be overlooked?

I will reiterate that there are some great moments in MOH: PA. It just seems out of place that EA was willing to spend millions on the game, but didn't give the developers an extra 3-6 months to really balance the game and make it shine. This is like the child genius that, instead of pursuing the gift, decides that drugs are better. There's so much potential here that is unrealized. A patch has been released that addresses some of the issues, but they are more bug fixes (like mouse lag and a few minor issues) than anything else. Perhaps the multiplayer portion can save it.

The Online Invasion

The multiplayer aspect of MOH:PA is respectable because of a single mode: Invaders. While there's free-for-all (deathmatch) and team deathmatch, it's the Invaders Mode that shines (and currently hogs most servers). While not entirely original, it pits one team against another with more in mind than racking up a high frag count. For the offensive side, there's are objectives to achieve, and – you guessed it – the defense has to defend those objectives. Of all the modes, it plays the best, especially when you have sides that have a vague idea what they're doing.

As for the game's online future, it will be incredibly difficult to steal players from established games like Call of Duty and even EA Games' own Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (MOH:AA). The mod making tools were released along with the patch, so it's a little too early to call what direction the game will take. While there will certainly be a dedicated fan base for the game, its popularity may only spread a few thousand players outside of that. Many people play through the single player game first to get comfortable and, given its many shortcomings, the multiplayer may not ever get touched.

A Future With Medals?

After MOH: AA, this latest installment is something of a letdown. The improvements seem to be almost all cosmetic, perhaps at the expense of the gameplay. While there's no denying the impressive new graphics engine's prowess, the provocative presentation of the game, and the surface level enhancements, the game's playability itself has suffered in significant ways. Is it fun? There are some mesmerizing levels and there are some heart-pounding sequences, but they are outnumbered by the dull repetitiveness of many levels, the long load times, and the numerous questionable decisions that were made to get this game out before the holidays. It can be fun, but there are better choices for your year-end dollar.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 12, 2004 5:21 PM.

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